Fort Reconstruction Project
When the project began in 1995, we expected to investigate a relatively small stockaded enclosure including perhaps 3-5 structures -- at the close of the project in 2001, we had revealed an enormous tightly packed "town" with very solid evidence of at least fourteen structures.
One lesson to be learned is that the documentary record for some places and times is very sparse -- and does not reflect the "reality" of the historical past. Archaeological research has important contributions to make for these places and times.
In an effort to provide visitors to Bledsoe's Fort Historical Park with a physical representation of the interpreted layout, a passive on-site interpretive plan was created in 2002. Given the need for relatively easy maintenance while still providing visitors with the best current physical interpretation, the reconstruction shown in the photograph below was selected as the best compromise. Using a one-foot thick layer of mulch, the locations of walls and structures were outlined on the site. From an elevated viewing platform just outside the northern edge of the enclosure, visitors to the park can view the fort outline and use their imagination to visualize a bustling and crowded early frontier settlement.
While alternative interpretations are possible, the square buildings postulated for three of the corners of the enclosure are interpreted here as probably typical "blockhouse" constructions. The terminus of the ditches for the stockade wall suggest a square structure rather than a rectangular "cabin" type structure. While it is possible to place a fourth blockhouse on the southeast corner of the enclosure, it doesn't fit as well as another rectangular cabin to accompany the line of structures. We are fortunate to have one surviving blockhouse from this period. This structure is the only surviving portion of Fort Marr, a roughly contemporaneous military site in East Tennessee.
In addition, a drawing of a surviving blockhouse from a contemporary station in Davidson County provides additional information on the construction style for these blockhouses. The written descriptions of Ridley's Station indicates that this fortification also included blockhouses only at three corners -- this plan being considered sufficient to provide defense for the interior residential structures.
Extrapolating from the few historical documents available, Bledsoe's Station probably began as a relatively lightly fortified station consisting of a rectangular pattern of two rows of cabins. By the late 1780s, I suspect the more formal stockade and blockhouse features were added as raids on the Cumberland settlements intensified. Again, while alternative explanations are possible, this hypothesis of an evolution of the station plan seems to best fit the archaeological and historical evidence.
At Moss-Wright Park in Goodlettsville, a replica of a period station is maintained alongside the historic Bowen-Campbell House. The replica includes a corner blockhouse that might be similar to that postulated for Bledsoe's Station.